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UN Reports Burma's Cyclone Relief Still Inadequate


Almost two weeks after a cyclone hit Burma's Irrawaddy Delta, leaving at least 34,000 dead, U.N. officials say the government's disaster response still falls short. But as Ron Corben reports from neighboring Thailand, U.N. officials say international pressure to allow more aid into the region shows signs of results.

United Nations officials say aid is now trickling in to victims of the cyclone that hit Burma 11 days ago, but they say more must be done.

A spokeswoman for the U.N. coordinating relief agency, Amanda Pitt, says if the flow of aid does not increase, survivors face outbreaks of disease that could push the death toll far higher.

"Between 1.5 and two million people are severely affected by that cyclone. We are very concerned for them. They have critical needs in terms of food, shelter, clean water and medical assistance," she said. "We want to make sure that we scale this response as much as we can - it is not adequate at the moment."

The United Nations, the United States, France and Britain, have pressed the military to allow in more international assistance to cope with the tragedy.

Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej traveled to Burma to urge the military government to grant more visas to international relief workers.

Pitt says the pressure is showing results.

"In terms of international pressure we have seen some progress in the last few days. There are some openings in terms of logistics," she said. "We are getting more visas; there is more food and more aid in the affected areas. There is some progress noted to us but that is not enough."

Relief officials said emergency food has reached up to 74,000 people. Efforts are also being stepped up to ease water shortages and provide toilet facilities.

But food distribution remains difficult because of damaged and flooded roads that can only carry light-weight trucks. Rangoon's international airport also lacks the equipment needed to unload tons of aid from cargo planes.

Marcus Prior, a spokesman for the World Food Program, says that more monsoon rains will aggravate efforts to deliver relief supplies.

"With the rainy season hitting hard many of the roads beyond the main towns in the [Irrawaddy] delta are not paved and even sending a five-ton truck down those roads could render them unusable for some time," he said.

Relief agencies are monitoring a tropical depression that could develop into another cyclone in the Bay of Bengal. Another storm will just add to survivors' misery, as most have little shelter.

The U.N. fears as many as 100,000 people may have died from the May 3 cyclone, with tens of thousands still at risk.

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